In order to improve efficiency in the planning process, local authorities applicants and agents need to work together to ensure that planning applications are valid on receipt, a report by the Office of the Planning Regulator, (OPR) has said.
The report notes that it is critical to get it right from the outset so particular attention to detail is required when preparing planning applications to ensure they comply with regulatory requirements.
Initial assessment by local authorities of planning application documentation determines compliance with regulatory requirements. If it does comply, substantive assessment of the planning merits of the proposal can proceed. However, applications that don’t comply are deemed “invalid” and legally must be returned to the applicant.
The report notes that between 2015 and 2020, average invalidation rates nationally increased from 13.9% to 17.1%. In the same period invalidation rates in 13 out of the 31 local authorities increased and a number of local authorities had invalidation rates consistently and significantly above national average rate.
Planning Regulator, Niall Cussen said, “invalid planning applications cost applicants and local authority resources. Careful preparation of applications and availability of helpful advice is key to avoid that missing document or piece of information resulting in your planning application being returned and delays resulting in your project. There is a considerable onus on applicants, their agents and local authorities, to ‘get it right’ at the initial stage”.
The report outlines practical steps that help streamline the process, including:
- Vigilance by those preparing applications in meeting legal requirements.
- Provision of over-the-counter and online checking services by local authorities, so applicants are clear about the required application documentation.
- Dedicated local authority staff with the knowledge to spot potential errors.
- Prompt attention to complaints where errors may have been made, as well as systems to avoid the recurrence of same.
- Monitoring the validation performance to ensure a consistent and proportionate approach to validations.
The report was prepared through analysis of local authority statistics over the 2016-2020, period, consultation with planning staff from a sample of authorities and other OPR data.
The full title of the report is OPR Case Study Paper CSP06, Planning Application Processing: An Analysis of Planning Authority Validation Processes
This is the sixth in a series of OPR Case Study Papers. They are issued to promote shared learning and highlight best practice in accordance with the OPR’s statutory remit to engage in education, training and research activities.